Here's What You Can Expect for Illumina After Its Fantastic Q2 Earnings Results

Five things to watch for with Illumina in the coming months.

Keith Speights
Keith Speights
Aug 1, 2018 at 6:01AM
Health Care

You could probably call 31% revenue growth and 74% adjusted earnings-per-share growth a blowout quarter. And that's exactly what Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN) delivered when the genomic-sequencing leader announced its Q2 results on Monday.

But investors celebrate great results about as long as the coach of a successful football team basks in the glory of a big win early in the season. There's too much to focus on for the future to dwell on the past, no matter how good it was.

Illumina's management team spoke a lot about what's next for the company during the second-quarter earnings conference call. Here are five things you can expect for Illumina after its fantastic Q2 results based on what the company's executives said in this call. 

Arrows hitting bull's-eye on three targets

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Moderating but still impressive consumables growth

The big story for Illumina in the second quarter was once again strong consumables growth. Revenue from sequencing consumables jumped 35% year over year in Q2 to $455 million, higher than the company expected. And growth was seen in all areas of the business -- including high-throughput systems NovaSeq and HiSeq, the mid-throughput NextSeq system, and low-throughput systems MiniSeq, MiSeq, and iSeq.

However, Illumina CFO Sam Samad said the company expects "a more modest sequential increase in sequencing consumables" in the third quarter of 2018. Don't let that comment fool you, though: Illumina's consumables revenue will still keep growing at an impressive rate.

The company even upped its full-year 2018 revenue guidance due to the better-than-expected consumables growth in the first half of the year and a higher forecast for sequencing consumables revenue for the rest of 2018 than Illumina initially projected.

2. A temporary lull in direct-to-consumer revenue

Illumina's Q2 microarray revenue increased 25% from the prior-year period to $140 million. That total was down, though, from the $152 million made in the first quarter. The primary reason for this sequential decline was lower sales to direct-to-consumer (DTC) genomics customers such as Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix.

Samad stated that Illumina expects microarray revenue "to be down meaningfully on a sequential basis" in Q3. Is there a problem? Not really. DTC sales are highly seasonal and tend to be lowest in the third quarter. CEO Francis deSouza indicated that DTC revenue would likely bounce back nicely in Q4.

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3. No big worries related to trade tensions

My prediction several days prior to Illumina's Q2 update was that the company could see a positive impact from concerns about escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Sure enough, Illumina reported around $13 million of additional stocking orders in the second quarter as three large Chinese customers bought consumables in anticipation of new tariffs. 

Samad stated that Illumina "continue[s] to monitor the tariff situation closely in China." But while the company thinks there could be more variability of the timing in orders like it experienced in Q2, there weren't any significant concerns about a negative impact from the trade skirmish between the U.S. and China. 

4. More oncology opportunities

Use of gene sequencing in oncology research and testing is already important to Illumina. The company noted oncology as a big factor in the growth of NextSeq consumables revenue in Q2. Illumina is also already receiving revenue from its companion diagnostics deals with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Loxo Oncology.

Expect oncolology to become an even larger growth opportunity for Illumina. In particular, deSouza said that "one exciting development for the future is the emergence of tumor mutational burden as a biomarker predictive of the effectiveness of immunotherapies." Tumor mutational burdens, or TMBs, measure the number of genetic mutations in tumor cells and can be used to help determine the most appropriate treatment for cancer patients. 

A decision earlier this year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reimburse for next-generation sequencing (NGS) cancer diagnostics has also opened up new opportunities. DeSouza stated that Illumina has seen interest in oncology testing from large academic cancer centers and smaller hospitals.

5. How the growing cash stockpile might be used

Illumina reported $2.5 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments at the end of the second quarter. How does the company plan to use its growing cash stockpile? There are three key moves that investors can expect.

First, Sam Samad said that Illumina will use its cash to make strategic acquisitions that "lower the barrier to the adoption of genomics." He referenced Illumina's recent acquisition of Edico Genome as an example of this type of deal. Second, Samad mentioned that the company would likely repurchase stock to offset dilution related to employee stock compensation. And third, Illumina will probably use some of its cash to pay down debt, with tranches of convertible debt due in 2019 and 2021.

Will the stock keep rising?

Illumina's share price has soared more than 45% so far this year. My hunch is that the momentum will continue, albeit at a slower pace. However, Illumina's valuation is high. A Q3 disappointment or a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China could cause the stock to pull back significantly.

Over the long run, though, Illumina has plenty of growth drivers, including increased use of consumer genomics, population genomics initiatives, and expanded oncology testing. While the company's third-quarter performance might not be as impressive as Q2, I think that Illumina will have many more blowout quarters in the future.